Kim Holmes has spent his life advocating for liberty, both as a longtime Heritage expert and previously as Assistant Secretary of State. His new book Rebound: Getting America Back to Great unveils the larger picture of the course America has been on—revealing that decline is a choice, not a destiny.
While you’ve been known as a foreign policy expert, Rebound has a lot to say about economic and social issues – why did you expand to these issues?
Because I’m deeply concerned about the future of my country. Economic and social issues are where our greatest vulnerabilities are as a nation. Unless we get our fiscal house in order and culture back on a healthy path, we cannot possibly keep America from heading down the road to decline.
Rebound contends that baby boomers and their children have developed a harmful sense of entitlement. Where did this come from, and why is it a problem?
It arose in the 1960s as part of the counterculture. The “me” decade and its aftermath was a direct assault on the values of individual responsibility and civil society that had once made America a successful nation. Most of that generation has dropped the silly “summer of love” lifestyle, but they’ve kept the ’60s preoccupation with Self. The notion of helping society by helping ourselves morphed into a culture focused on what society and government supposedly owe us.
We will never get America “back to great” until we return to the belief that it’s not the government—but we as individuals—who are responsible for ourselves, our families, and our communities.
Your book uses stories to help us grapple with the big issues America faces, like the problem of increasing federal regulations.
The mountain of new regulations hobbling our economy is huge. I tell the story of the famous six-toed cats at the Hemingway House Museum in Florida—the target of a nine-year investigation by the Department of Agriculture! Even though the cats roam freely and are not an exhibit, the feds considered the cats an “animal exhibit” subject to all sorts of costly regulations. The U.S. government first dispatched undercover agents to spy on the cats’ treatment… then an animal behavior expert… and finally someone from PETA, who concluded the cats were “fat, happy and relaxed.”
Now you don’t need a nine-year government investigation for that. There are thousands of cases like this one, wasting tens of millions of dollars and diverting resources from more important matters. It’s a large reason why Americans continue to rate the federal government, and especially Congress, poorly.
Oftentimes standing for “American greatness” is lampooned as arrogant. Is it?
It’s not about arrogance, but simply admitting a fact about the country itself. People the world over had always known that America was different. That’s why so many millions of immigrants came here. The American Dream—the belief in hard work, individual responsibility, and freedom—set America apart and was a major reason it was so successful.
As the leader of the free world, America carries an “exceptional” burden for the security and freedom of other peoples—which is generous, not arrogant.
You seem to be optimistic about the future. Why do you believe America can rebound?
1) Traditional American values, though challenged by today’s culture, are not dead—they reside in the hearts of many Americans.
2) The economy is basically sound; it’s the government’s interference with it that is causing the problem.
3) The current course cannot succeed—when this becomes obvious, Americans will turn to our solutions.